Recently we got our hands on Netgear’s latest and greatest router, the Netgear Nighthawk X10, which could easily be considered as the world’s best consumer-grade router.
The X10 is simply a beast of a router with a design that mirrors the beastly specifications of the router, featuring an aggressive style that includes an angular style body, sharp corners and exposed grills along the top of the routers fans and the motherboard.
However, all of this does come in at a large footprint at 22.4cm wide, meaning that it is going to take up a lot of space on your desk or tabletop. In fact, it’s likely that this router is just about all that you will be able to fit on a surface without making things untidy, so we are thankful that the design at least looks amazing.
And you can wall-mount it if you prefer that.
And you are definitely going to want to make that compromise for this router as the specifications of this router are amazing.
You get your first view of these specifications when you look at the back, where you will find a total of seven Gigabit Ethernet ports and even a 10Gb LAN SFP+ port that allows you to get 10Gb speeds to and from a compatible device, from a consumer-grade router, which is pretty darn awesome, although we don’t have any SFP+ gear lying around unfortunately.
Oh, and there are still more ports as around the left-hand side you will also find a couple of USB 3.0 ports that allow you to connect a printer or an external hard drive.
And you might just want to do the latter as plugging in an external hard drive will allow you to take advantage of the router’s Plex support.
Yes the Nighthawk X10 comes with support for Plex, which is pretty awesome as this application is a fantastic solution to organising your media easily (sadly, it does not support transcoding, which does mean that you need to convert videos for your devices manually).
With this application, you simply sign into or sign up from Plex, add in the folders from your connected external hard drive to Plex to the libraries that correspond with that content, such as images, movies, TV shows, or music.
Once all of that is done, you are ready to get Plexing and your content will be shared across your network both via Plex and via compatible file explorers on Mac and Windows.
[Update May 5th: We have updated the image above to show the recent firmware update to the X10, which brought support for using a NAS with Plex and the X10, which is a pretty cool feature if you have a NAS without support for this already.]
Building this right into a router simply makes sense, however, most of the routers simply don’t have the power needed to do much more than routeing your internet.
The X10 does much more thanks to its 1.7GHz quad-core processor as well as it’s fantastic 802.11ac and 802.11ad wireless radios.
And while we have you at the radios, we have to talk about that 802.11ad one in particular.
802.11ad is the latest wi-fi standard and not much supports it just yet, however, if you are going to put down the kind of dosh needed for a router then you are going to want the latest and greatest, and so the X10 has it built right in, despite lacking support.
This radio is so awesome because it is around three times faster than the current 802.11ac standard with up to 4.6Gbps speeds for ultimate WiFi capabilities.
802.11ac tops out at just 1.3Gbps, which will definitely feel like a zimmer frame if you ever go back to it.
That said, it might be some time before you can actually try out 802.11ad, we weren’t even able to and so we can’t provide any opinion on how this works sadly.
And so we will move on.
Of course, you do get a ton of the already well-supported and standard stuff with the X10, including support for MU-MIMO (multiple user – multiple input, multiple output).
This provides you with better performance and improved streaming.
It also comes with the support for the 20MHz and 40MHz band on the 2.4GHz frequency, as well as both the 80MHz and the 160MHz band on the 5.2GHz frequency, the latter 160Hz band is also used by the X10 to double the wi-fi speed provided to mobile devices on your network according to Netgear.
All of this is sent around your home via a set of four antennas which use beamforming and are capable of pushing the signal out for all three of the frequency bands and the guest network.
Each of these antennas lights up with a blue hint to indicate that they are working, and just because it’s kinda cool.
This is then combined with the legion of lights that sit along the front of the device and indicate the status of the power, wireless (for each of the bands), each of the LAN ports on the back of the router, and the status for the 10G port.
There’s also a couple of buttons next to these which indicate the wireless and WAN and if pressed they allow you to turn these on/off without having to go into the settings.
Of course, all of these lights are going to produce a lot of light so if that’s going to annoy you then you will be happy to know that there is a switch on the back for quickly turning the LEDs on/off, unfortunately, despite this, the power indicator is always on, no matter this switches placement.
With all of these features, and all of the tech jargon you may be thinking that this is going to be quite some router to set up.
Thankfully, Netgear has thought of that with the introduction of their own setup app called Netgear Up, which will take you through both the installation and the connection process that you will need to go through in order to get started with your new Netgear Nighthawk X10.
I did this to set up our review sample and I have to say that the overall experience was pretty fantastic when compared to other routers on the market, I had things setup in just a couple of minutes with the internet ready to go and a new network name and password set, and it even goes through even the most simple of instructions like how to connect to a WiFi network on your iPhone, so it’s great even for the novices.
Of course, if you want to do some of the more advanced stuff, you are going to have to pop over to the admin panel for the X10, which is also pretty simple to use and provides a range of options for getting your network set up exactly how you want it to be setup.
There’s also another application called Netgear Genie that allows you to access other features and manage some settings from your smartphone.
You can do a range of things from managing the WiFi network – to setting up a guest network – to viewing the devices that are connected to the router – to viewing the traffic to and from the router and much more.
Of course, all of these specifications and features do not come cheap.
And the Netgear Nighthawk X10 definitely does not come cheap, at £404 on Amazon, this is probably one of the most expensive consumer-grade routers on the market.
But for that, you get a ton of features.
To top that off, the X10 has a sleek set of antennas that can produce signals across your house and a little further than that on top.
And with that processing power, the X10 is able to deliver Plex support right from the router itself. It’s also one of the first consumer-grade routers to support 10Gb networking.
To put things simply, the Nighthawk X10 is the best consumer-grade router that you can buy right now.
Disclosure: Netgear sent us a sample of the Nighthawk X10 for the purpose of this review.